Three Ways to Worldbuild with Your Group

So I’m on the cusp of starting a new campaign with a new group and I’ve decided to try something different. Instead of simply making a new world on my own or running a published setting, I thought it would be fun for my new group (it’s the first campaign for all of them) to make a world with me. I’ll go deeper into the process, which has been working splendidly, after we’ve finished, but first some other ideas for worldbuilding as a group:

The first idea is pretty simple. You start with an essentially blank slate. Then, each player adds one element to the world that ties to their characters backstory. For example, the dwarf is from a mountain stronghold that was once lost to his people (yeah, I recently saw the Hobbit…) or the druid is a member of a powerful secret order. The major idea here is that each player will give you something juicy to work with and then you, as the DM, incorporate that element deeply into your campaign.

The next idea is for a group that wants to return a former campaign world years later. Worlds change and evolve over time, not just in the ways your old characters affected it, but in completely organic, natural, and sometimes surprising ways. Instead of coming up with all this on your own, write a bunch of generic world changes on sheets of paper like “This group has come to power because of…” or “This city is now under a different rule.” Then have the players pick these sheets of paper out of a hat and describe the changes they pick. This will give them an active say in how the world grows while they’re away from it.

The final one here might be cheating. You have the players design their own vessel. It could be an airship, traditional ship, submersible, or even a spelljammer (magic spaceship for those who don’t know) and the campaign centers on their travels in that vessel. While you are still designing the various exotic locales they’ll visit, they’ve decided with their vessel the types of adventures they want to have. The places they’ll visit in a spelljammer are very different from where they’ll go in a sailing ship.  They still have a say in the kinds of places being visited. And you can always have them make up the places too.

Letting your players in on the world building process doesn’t only take some of the work out of your hands, it also makes a world your players are much more invested in. As someone who is currently on both sides of this (playing and running), I would suggest group worldbuilding to every group. At least once.

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Happy Holidays!

Hey everyone, sorry I missed last week’s post. Between starting a new D&D group, rehearsing for my new improv group, and getting ready for Christmas, it sort of fell by the wayside. From now on, when I’m going to miss a week, I’ll make it known here. Speaking of, I will not be posting next week or the week after. I want to wish everyone the best possible holiday, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Making characters with my new group recently, I realized that new players don’t always have the easiest time with their first character. I guess I hadn’t before because I’d always either been on the same level as them or had another person who knew the game as well as I did to help. It got me wondering: how could I make this easier?

I think the way to make creation easier for any system is to segment it. What I mean is break it up into parts for your players. Using D&D as an example, that would mean you do stats, skills, gear, everything separately. I also mean that you should keep the extraneous or unneeded choices away. So if one of your players is a Rogue, show them only the best feats for a rogue. This process takes more work on your part, but it pays off during the creation process.

So, with the proper prep, you can make the process of creation much easier on your first time players. It’s all about asking the right questions, knowing your stuff, and making decisive choices (believe me, they will waffle a lot). Also, never hurts to have multiple copies of your core book.

So, when next I write, it’ll be 2013 (unless the Mayans are right) and I’m going to start with a story about my new group and a brand new campaign building system made by yours truly. Hope to see you all next year!